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The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Vicious Critique of the Pacific ChurchNews

Dear Sean McConnel,

I got the PacificChurchNews today wrapped around the EpiscopaLife.

Excellent and relevant story about Aids walk.

I suppose you had to do the crap about EMG, another project of the church calling for long range planning and producing no action or at least not much. Notice the illustration stories. All Saints, SF pledges some $. Good. Note card sale from one of the wealthiest parishes in the diocese??? Hey those cards will make good eating for the Mexican children. It is good that some of those folks went down there. But Note cards??? Did you do it on purpose to contrast what a rich parish does and the poorer, All Saints did?

P. 2 Andrus is standing on the labyrinth, where people walk in circles, like the church in general. His screed is about meditation and prayer that he says youngsters' hunger for. They hunger for sex, sweets and drugs.

Eyes Wide Open paragraph. There were at least three other Episcopalians there, you, Marilyn Saner whose son has been to Iraq and yours truly. You asked me to send you a copy of my remarks. Gosh, I can’t find them anywhere in PCN. Then we have almost a quarter page obituary of someone no one has ever heard of. Nice as it mentions the Church Army, which also is something, no one has ever heard of except three of us.

P3 another report of a meeting and opinion poll of Episcopalians with no call to action or rather all call and no action. A second picture of Andrus asking for money this time.

PP4-5 MDG list of goals that any ten teen-agers sitting down for ten minutes could have enunciated. More talk, more call to action and no action. Social service items are mentioned Good Sam, Sojourn Chaplaincy and St. Dorothy’s’ are all fine but they are not social action; they are not programs for social change.

P. 6 A whole page on Episcopal Schools, that’s nice. How many Episcopalians attend these three schools for the rich 30? How many children in toto are educated by these “venereal” institutions? ½ page every other year is about what the schools are worth in terms of ministry to and with members of this diocese?

P. 7 Dumb picture of Andrus peddling a one hundred dollar a plate dinner for the Maritime Center. Here is a hot ticket for the bulk of the Episcopalians in the diocese.

A PREBYTERIAN Church advertises a conference on the Wall of Silence. Very good indeed.

Ms Julia writes the great cliché of our time. “…A Christian life rich in contemplation”…is a very good thing. While she mentions action, the fact is the church is now rich in contemplation, humor, play, conferences, long-range plans, studies and virtually no action.

Finally the war in Iraq and Afghanistan are not mentioned once in the PCN.

Sean, I know you have a diverse constituency to write for so this criticism is not about you but about what the church is doing and not doing.

In a recent SF Chronicle editorial page there is an article where Cynthia Tucker writes of the worsening plight of young lack Americans who are killing each other at a startling increased rate. Richmond, Oakland and the south of Market San Francisco have huge numbers of murders. Those towns are all in the Diocese of California. We have parishes and missions in those towns, all struggling just to survive and do not have the resources to do much about murders. Now this is an area of real need for social change. I hope some of these spiritual life meditators and contemplators get involved in stopping the murders happening daily in our Diocese of California. That would be social action indicating that a rich spiritual life has some value.


Blogger Fr. John said...


I agree with much of what you have to say in terms of the need for action, but I do believe that right action is grounded in contemplative practice and leads back into it if such action is to be sustained for the long haul.

While Bishop Marc is leading action around the MDGs with the mapping project and the development of companion dioceses, I hope for leadership from him on local issues as well; not an either/or, but both. His arrest at the Federal Building was a great start, but it hasn't sustained a movement; but that is our "fault" as well as his, I think. We need to push him and ourselves - that is your gift.

I do give Marc credit for marching in the Pride Parade, which is a visible sign of episcopal solidarity with LGBT people - qua LGBT people and not as AIDS victims - for the first time ever in this diocese.

Your comment that what young people desire is sex and drugs is a caricature that is an insult to young people. Marc is right about this. Note that when he led a group of youth and young adults to Taize this summer, they first spent two days assisting with reconstruction efforts in New Orleans. Marc has consistently preached for the unity of contemplation and action, prayer and justice. I think he is trying to model it as well.

I will admit that if I see one more picture of Marc Andrus in the PCN I'm going to be sick. This is branding overkill. We get it that Marc is the bishop now.


9:59 AM  
Blogger Sean said...

I think you need to change your header. According to Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary:

Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French vicios, from Latin vitiosus full of faults, corrupt, from vitium vice
1 : having the nature or quality of vice or immorality : DEPRAVED
4 a : dangerously aggressive : SAVAGE [a vicious dog] b : marked by violence or ferocity : FIERCE [a vicious fight]
5 : MALICIOUS, SPITEFUL [vicious gossip]
6 : worsened by internal causes that reciprocally augment each other [a vicious wage-price spiral]

So, if we were to consider your critique as vicious, readers of your blog might think:

1. ...that the critique is somehow immoral in nature. Well, I guess we could consider the source, but knowing the blogger personally, all I could say is that one human's "immoral" is another human's sex-positive attitude. So, I would never levy that against you, RC.

2. ...that the critique is somehow defective or faulty. Well, maybe on some levels (see response from John above). There are the many typos, but since when have blogs been judged on how well edited their copy is? -- I can just see you going and making the corrections now, RC :-)

3. ...that the critique is impure or noxious. Far be it from me to judge anyone's purity. I have heard some call RC "obnoxious," but never "noxious."

4. ...that the critique is dangerously aggressive, savage and/or fierce. Well, by this time, I think that everyone knows that your keyboard is mighty, but well placed criticism is a salve to a broken world, not a sword. And I bet I won't find a single person in this diocese who disagrees with your main tenant -- that we tend to navel gaze ad nauseum while children are dying in our streets. As someone who lives in Richmond, Cali., and who listens to gunfire while he reads his children to sleep at night, I gave up a long time ago on expecting Episcopalians as Episcopalians to do anything about the real problems that grow out of the profound poverty and the cultural machines that perpetuate the continuation of said poverty. But I do know a great number of Episcopalians who are working across faith and cultural lines to make a real difference in the lives of the poor. Most of them do that out of a place of deep faith, and all of them act as citizens who are deeply caring people, not as Episcopalians. Some of them are even older than you are, my dear RC, and they get up every morning, pray, then get to work on the real problems that vex our community and our world. So, the real vicious danger is something you point out in your critique, but cannot be said of the critique itself.

5. ...that the critique is malicious, or spiteful. For it to be either of those, I think that you would want to do the PCN or me damage in someway, and I think that your critique comes from a place of love: love for me, love for the church, love for our communities, love for the poor and oppressed... so how could I charge you with spite?

6. ...that the critique is worsened by internal causes that reciprocally augment each other. I simply point you once again to your typos.

Perhaps some might read this blog entry as harsh, or hard, but those of us who know you know your heart, and we know that even though you are no cream-puff that all of your critiques come from a place of love. So, it might be on the verge of viciousness for me to say that RC is a great big softy, who is full of love and big of heart, but I don't care. You've suffered worse in your life.

The fact that you actually read the PCN cover-to-cover is the most important thing to me. I tend to imagine it next to people's toilets, or tossed into recycling bins with the supermarket flyers, or (as Herb Caen used to say) as Friday Fish Wrap. But since at least you and John read it, I will try to use fewer photos of +Marc and get more stories about real action -- only after the next issue which will provide more pre-diocesan-convention info than you can possibly imagine.

with undying love and affection,
sean (aka, editor, PCN)

p.s. I loved the Belly Dancing post.

12:08 PM  
Blogger Svend la Rose said...

You're quite on point, and I like what you have to say. A few answers for you, or rather points of clarification.

1. Bishop Andrus' lifestyle and largesse require a lot of money. If he would sell the Lyon Street mansion and get a normal apartment (or, better yet, live in the Chapter House at the Cathedral), we could fund all those ministries out of the General Fund. Instead, we have to have $100 a plate fundraisers to fund those ministries because we're paying more for one year's interest and maintenance than we should be paying for his half of the rent (he's married, you know) for six years.

2. The MDGs are actually a watered-down version of a decent document, the UN Millennium Declaration, that had actual teeth. Corporate types and the European and American right wing forced the Millennium Declaration down into eight toothless "goals". If Bishop Andrus had any spine, he would insist on pursuing the wealth-equalizing, ground-leveling goals of the Declaration. He's too beholden to the trust-fund set to care.

3. This Diocese doesn't operate any parishes in the poor neighborhoods that are Ground Zero for the violence epidemic because their priests don't feel "safe" there, and because they don't pledge enough, and our system is set up so wealthy parishes fund capital campaigns while poor parishes close their doors.

4. Bishop Andrus' real Lord is mammon. He cut his milk teeth as the chaplain of a country club posing as a high school for the scions of the Southern planter class before moving on to a sleepy parish in Northern Virginia and then the #2 to one of the most notorious rightists to not have yet broken with TEC. Half his CV was based on money and his EHS "service" facades, and he came in here and appointed financier Paul Evans to head up his clandestine "governance reform" which is an extra-legal loophole to drastically restructure the Diocese to fit his "beloved community": wealthy Christianity with just enough of a pretense of "service" to avoid being excoriated for hypocrisy and inefficiency. (Now, avoid RC and myself? Never! That's another essay though.)

Notice nobody under 25 on the Regular Committees of Convention, nobody prominent who does physical work for a living, but plenty of conflicts of interest with people chairing bodies they regulate and plenty of 40- and 50-something men and women of property running the show they ruined and keep on ruining. That's a theme. NEWS FLASH. If you serve God, you can't also serve mammon. If you serve mammon, you don't also serve God. (Corollary to Matt 6:18/Luke 16:13).

5. Young people today are about action and social change, which is why they don't buy Bishop Andrus' screed. As the leader of the oldest youth rights organization in America, I have seen ten -- or even five -- teenagers sit around a table and knock fear into the Establishment in ten minutes' time. I've seen them write public policy in that time. I know young people that could talk and work circles around you(RC), you(JK), you(SMcC) or most other 40+ people I know. I have a 14-year-old regional director in Wisconsin and a 17-year-old research and education director in Ohio who is working on a novel and monograph after leaving high school to outdo them on her own. (Which she did handsomely.) Moral of the story: Don't diss young people.

6. The ad nauseam pictures of Bishop Andrus have got to be reflective of something more than branding. I have heard a lot of people expecting Bishop Andrus to be a silver bullet that will substantially eliminate the problems facing this Diocese. I have heard some people say that Andrus' secretive review committee will solve all our problems. This fits the pattern of excessive self-promotion used to camouflage one's obvious weaknesses.

I am not optimistic about this Bishop's plans. I opposed him from day one. I continue to oppose him today, and I think RC lays out a very good, if misdirected, case for the opposition. PCN has accurately and vividly reported the dismal state of this Diocese, and the people who have the understanding to lead us forward are disenfranchised.

I have Canons and will travel to Anaheim and Provincial Synod. Anyone have a nomination from the floor to spare for one or both?

4:55 AM  

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